South Africa, along with Malawi and Tanzania, the three Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries making up the sole United Nations peacekeeping force with an offensive mandate – the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo – met virtually this week to consider reconfiguration of the brigade.
The virtual meeting, with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa in “attendance”, coincided with the release of a UN report on the security situation in the central African country.
A report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said fighters of all armed groups were responsible for the summary executions and/or arbitrary killings of at least 1 315 people, including 165 children, in the first six months of this year. This was more than three times the 416 deaths recorded in the first half of last year.
The increase is attributed to deterioration in the human rights situation in areas of the country where conflict between FARDC (the DR Congo armed forces), and “all armed groups” is rife. The report identifies particularly Ituri, South Kivu, Tanganyika and North Kivu. Eastern DR Congo, the report said, has been unstable for almost 30 years with the population terrorised by “dozens of militia groups – the legacy of two major wars”.
In May this year South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was part of a virtual meeting between the UN and SADC. The only agenda item was reconfiguration of the FIB. The three-country force is, according to the South African Presidency, “a military formation authorised by the UN Security Council which constitutes part of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO)”.
Mapisa-Nqakula defended current composition of the FIB against suggestions one of its three battalions be replaced by a multi-sourced composite battalion. Also on the virtual table was a suggestion for non-FIB/SADC officers to take command of FIB headquarters.
South Africa’s formal response by Mapisa-Nqakula, according to African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier, is “strenuous disagreement with the actions proposed”.
The FIB should remain a SADC-led force with expanded capabilities rather than become “just another MONUSCO unit”.
The SADC meeting noted the regional bloc’s concern as regards the UN decision to reconfigure the FIB and appealed for it “not to be tampered with”.
Elements of the SA Army Infantry Formation’s 15 SA Infantry Battalion are on pre-deployment classes as part of mobilisation to DR Congo to rotate with 2 SA Infantry Battalion currently deployed there. Pre-deployment training continues until September.